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A Very Hot Hot Sauce Story:

a decade of startup success

Hoff & Pepper is exploding across the nation. The award-winning Chattanooga-based hot sauce producer has committed to fresh, locally sourced peppers – not overprocessed, predictable sauces – and America noticed. With $3 million in total revenue last year and a recent investor campaign that’s raised more than $434,000, Hoff & Pepper is found in more than 4,500 stores from coast to coast, including a recent expansion in California.

Michelle Hoffman

Yet, 10 years ago, Hoff & Pepper was barely more than a start-up idea. Borrowing kitchen space, Aaron “Hoff” and Michelle “Pepper” Hoffman were bottling hot sauce as gifts for friends and selling their products at farmers’ markets.

Then, in 2017, they joined the Chattanooga Chamber’s INCubator, the North Shore business incubator located in the Hamilton County Business Development Center – which provides 127,000 square feet of entrepreneurial workspace and countless resources for local entrepreneurs and start-ups.

“We would not be where we are today without the Chamber’s Incubator program,” Michelle said. Trend talks with Michelle “Pepper” Hoffman about a decade of hard work, faithful vision and their hot startup success. 

What’s new at Hoff & Pepper?

We’re on the shelves at more than 4,500 retail locations and are very fortunate to have expanded all over the country. ACE Hardware is our largest wholesale customer. Most recently, we got into Erewhon — a high-end grocery chain only in California — and Sprouts Grocery which spread us as far as the West Coast. We can now be found all over California!

What’s on the horizon? What can we expect from you in 2024?

In 2024, we will continue to focus on expanding. We are in talks with Walmart, Fresh Market and World Market currently, with hopes of hitting their shelves in 2024. We will continue to focus on our core brand and our hero products: Hoff Sauce, Hoff’s Original BBQ, and Hoff’s Smoken’ Ghost Ketchup.

You’re a 2022 graduate of the INC. What did your time at the INC teach you? How important was it?

It was so important! From the first day there, I was learning, like simple things from how to accept and schedule deliveries at the loading dock to interacting with sales reps to packaging our products. We grew so much during our time at the Incubator and will forever be grateful for our experience.

I met so many people. So many wonderful interactions were fostered by the Chamber tours, which also taught me how to talk to people about our products, an important skill I still lean on today. When I didn’t know what to do, I could lean on the people around me. Being in an environment like that is priceless. We are thankful every day for the opportunities and people we met while in the program.

Hoff & Pepper sauces are available in stores nationwide, including Ace Hardware, and online at hoffandpepper.com.

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